NEW ORLEANS, LA – NOVEMBER 4: Cooper Kupp #18 of the Los Angeles Rams runs the ball after catching a pass during a game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 4, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints defeated the Rams 45-35. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Rams have arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver trio in Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods. Each one of these three are valuable fantasy contributors, but Kupp easily has the widest range of outcomes. The third-year receiver has been a chain-moving expert and a red zone threat but is also coming off an ACL injury. He could be a low-end WR1, but he could just as easily need time to shake off the rust. Based on his ADP, is his upside worth the risk?
What to Do About Cooper Kupp in Fantasy Football
The Case for Kupp
When he’s at his best, Cooper Kupp is one of the most reliable and dependable receivers in fantasy football. Kupp played in eight games last year, recording 40 receptions for 566 yards and six touchdowns. His 14.4 fantasy points-per-game was the 13th-best in half-PPR scoring, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Kupp hardly played in a Week Six win against Denver due to an injury. When removing this game, Kupp provided WR1 production on a weekly basis.
The biggest reason for this is due to Kupp’s reliability out of the slot and his red zone prowess. Kupp spent 73.0% of his snaps in the slot, which obviously means he saw a lot of targets. Brandin Cooks might have more big-play potential, but Kupp is the primary read every time the Rams need to move the chains. This reliability gives him a safe floor, especially in PPR formats.
Where Kupp really gets his value is in the red zone. Slot receivers typically aren’t double-digit touchdown guys, but Cooper Kupp is a special breed. Last season, Kupp recorded six touchdowns during his eight games. Projecting touchdowns is dangerous, as touchdowns are inherently fickle and can vary from season to season. However, the Rams love to target Kupp in the red zone, so his production should be relatively stable. According to Pro Football Reference, the Rams targeted Kupp 11 times inside the red zone. He turned those targets into eight receptions and three touchdowns.
The Rams never truly figured out how to score through the air without Kupp. Jared Goff’s numbers plummeted without Kupp simply because nobody was capable of doing everything he could do. The Rams didn’t add any pass-catchers during the offseason, so they clearly expect Kupp to be ready for his old role.
It’s also worth noting that Kupp reportedly looks great. While he hasn’t seen any preseason action of note, multiple beat reporters say that Kupp looks better than ever in practice. Additionally, Pro Football Reference states that it’s “likely” Kupp suits up in Week One against the Carolina Panthers.
The Case Against Kupp
If Kupp hadn’t torn his ACL, he’d probably be a second- or third-round pick. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL, dramatically and justifiably affecting his draft stock. Coming back from an ACL injury is no easy task, especially for a player who relies on sharp cuts like Kupp.
That said, it isn’t impossible. The medical world has come a long way in recent years, and ACL tears aren’t the kiss of death they once were. Last year, Hunter Henry tore his ACL in April and managed to make it back for the playoffs. While he didn’t do much upon his return, the fact he made it back on the field shows that the timetable for recovery is shorter than ever.
The closest historical comparison to Cooper Kupp is Wes Welker. Welker tore his ACL back in Week 17 of the 2009 season yet managed to come back for the start of 2010. During that year, Welker recorded 86 receptions for 846 yards and seven touchdowns while appearing in all 16 games. He wasn’t quite himself, but he was still an above-average player despite having roughly seven months to rehab the injury.
Welker tore his ACL in January, while Kupp tore his in November. This gives him roughly two more months of rehab than Welker had, which is obviously good news for Kupp. Additionally, Welker suffered his ACL tear almost a decade ago. Advancements in ACL recovery should make Kupp’s rehab easier than Welker’s. Kupp could still experience a dip in production, but it probably won’t be as noticeable as Welker’s.
Cooper Kupp Average Draft Position
As of this posting, Fantasy Football Calculator has Cooper Kupp going off the board with the 47th pick in half-point PPR scoring formats. This places him in the same range as guys like Tyler Lockett, Kenny Golladay, and T.Y. Hilton.
This is the perfect place to grab Kupp, as he has great odds of outplaying this draft selection. When healthy, he was the Rams most productive wide receiver from a fantasy perspective and played like a low-end WR1. Asking him to play like his old self right out of the gate is asking for a lot, but he should be able to put up 80-90% of his old production.
Kupp is arguably the most important part of the Rams passing attack and the best red zone threat in a high-scoring offense. He’s reportedly even more agile now than he was before and is a full-go in practice. Even if he can’t give you WR1 production, he should still be a high-end WR2 with a reliable floor and touchdown upside.
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